It kept happening to me and I could not avoid it, no matter how much I tried. I would lay down and go to sleep and slowly they would begin to creep in. Like a snake slowly slithering through the grass, so did my never-ending thoughts. They slowly slithered their way into my safe haven, my mind. My intrusive thoughts.
Many times, I would wake up mentally exhausted and couldn’t understand why. My mind had been working all night, not giving me the rest I needed. I started to wonder if I was the only one feeling this way. Again, I found out I was not alone on this either.
Here are some interesting statistics & facts on intrusive thoughts:
- Statistics show that at least 6 million Americans suffer from intrusive thoughts according to the Anxiety and Depression institution of America.
- Intrusive thoughts are commonly associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders and can manifest as unwanted impulses or mental images, often reoccurring, that may include disturbing thoughts about “harm/violence, sexuality/sexual behaviors, religion, and making mistakes/causing accidents,” according to the OCD & Anxiety Center.
- Not all intrusive thoughts are caused by mental health disorders: big life stressors and periods of intense anxiety, like childbirth, can trigger intrusive thoughts, Harvard Health Publishing
- Intrusive thoughts are automatic, and having unwanted urges does not mean the person actually wants to act on them.
- Intrusive thoughts can be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy and treating potential underlying conditions, like stress or anxiety disorders.
Intrusive thoughts come from a key chemical within the “memory” region of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is known to play a key role in controlling our actions. When we start to lose control of this it directly contributes to anxiety, PTSD, depression, and schizophrenia.
The ability to control our thoughts is very detrimental to our well-being. The moment we are unable to control our thoughts, it causes a breakdown of the mind which then leads to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
There were many nights when I couldn’t quiet my mind. It raced so much that I was mentally drained. This then led to dealing with insomnia. With insomnia came depression. Not only was I allowing myself to entertain all my negative thoughts, it began to affect my emotions. I began to relive my traumatic moments over and over again in my mind.
I have had to find different ways to help silence my thoughts or at least show them down a whole lot. Much easier said than done!! This was and has been the hardest part of my recovery.
Having the discipline to train my way of thinking became my biggest challenge. Focusing on the now. Living in the present moment was definitely harder than I thought.
Through therapy, I discovered different techniques on how to help manage my thinking. Every night when I lay down to sleep, I had to find a way to keep my mind quiet. I began by imagining a black screen showing nothing in my mind. Concentrating on keeping that black plain screen in my mind was difficult. Thoughts would start to pour in and I had to fight to keep my mind blank.
I did this night after night. Slowly I started to realize that it would get easier and easier to keep my mind in the present and would fall asleep focused on the black screen in my mind. I l also had to self-talk myself out of it. When a bad thought would come, I would do my best to replace it with a positive one. Grounding myself and focusing on my breathing and the sounds around me also helped keep me from dealing with intrusive thoughts as I was busy focusing on the present moment.
I still have trouble with my thoughts from time to time, but it gets easier to control. I understand that medication and other treatments are necessary for some, some are more severe than others. Finding peace in your mind is detrimental. You must make yourself and your mind a priority. Learn to give your mind a rest and you will see the difference it makes. It will help put your mind at ease and learn to live a little more in the now rather than back then.